What are the demographics of volunteers?

By age

  • In 2020/21, people aged 65-74 were the most likely age group to formally volunteer. 22% volunteered at least once a month and 32% volunteered at least once a year. This was down from 31% and 40% respectively from 2019/20.
  • People aged 25-34 were the least likely age group to formally volunteer. 12% volunteered formally at least once a month – slightly more than half the rate of those aged 65-74 – while 23% volunteered at least once a year. This was also down from 16% and 29% respectively from the previous year.
  • While the pandemic saw a fall in the level of formal volunteering for all age groups, especially for younger people aged under 34 and older people aged 65 and over, people aged from 35 to 64 experienced a smaller decline. This may reflect different types of volunteering undertaken by people in different age groups.
  • On the other hand, there were increases in informal volunteering across most age groups. The biggest increases for those informally volunteering at least once a month were for those aged 25-34 and 35-49 – both rising from 24% in 2019/20 to 31% in 2020/21.

People aged 65–74 are the age group most likely to volunteer on a regular basis – though the gap with younger age groups has narrowed rapidly during the last year

By gender

  • Women are slightly more likely to formally volunteer than men – both at least once a year (31% to 29%) and at least once a month (18% to 17%)
  • Women are also more likely to do particular forms of volunteering. They are significantly more likely to informally volunteer at least once a month (37% to 28%) and at least once a year (58% to 51%). Last year, according to the special Community Life Survey on the first wave of the pandemic, they were also more likely to engage in Covid-19-related formal volunteering (59% to 41%).[1]

Women are more likely than men to volunteer both at least once a month and once a year

By ethnicity

  • Data on volunteering by ethnicity varies according to different sources.
  • According to the Community Life Survey, Black and White people are more likely to volunteer than other ethnicities both at least once a month (23% and 18% respectively) and at least once a year (35% and 30%).
  • However, Time Well Spent data tells a different story. White people volunteer the same as the average (26% for at least once a month and 38% for at least once a year) while Black people volunteered less for both at least once a month (21%) and at least once a year (32%). For more information, please see the methodology section.
  • While some ethnic groups seem to volunteer less than others, the low sample size especially among older people means that this data is not conclusive. (For more information, please see the spotlight on diversity and volunteering below).

Volunteering participation varies by ethnicity, but different data sources tell different stories

By disability

  • Volunteering data paints a mixed picture for disabled volunteers.
  • Disabled people are just as likely to volunteer at least once a month than non-disabled people (19%). However, disabled people are slightly less likely to volunteer at least once a year (30% to 33% respectively).
  • For informal volunteering, there is a significant gap for disabled compared to non-disabled people volunteering at least once a month (37% to 33%).

Disabled people are just as likely to volunteer regularly but slightly less likely to volunteer occasionally

By socio-economic status

  • There is a significant gap in volunteering levels between people living in the most deprived areas compared with those from the least deprived areas.
  • In 2020/21, 12% of people in the most deprived areas formally volunteered at least once a month – slightly more than half of the level of formal volunteering for those from the least deprived areas (23%). There is a similar gap for those who formally volunteer at least once a year (22% to 38%).
  • However, there is a smaller gap for informal volunteering (48% for most deprived to 60% for least deprived areas, at least once a year), while for those informally volunteering at least once a month the difference is even smaller (30% to 36%).
  • These differences are confirmed by other research evidence, which similarly suggests more significant socioeconomic differences for formal volunteering than for informal volunteering.
  • Evidence also highlights that for formal volunteering, volunteers from lower socio-economic groups were less likely to undertake leadership or organising roles, such as being a trustee.

People from the most deprived socioeconomic areas are half as likely to formally volunteer as those with the least deprived socioeconomic status

More data and research

Notes and definitions

Findings from this page are largely taken from the latest data from the Community Life Survey (2020/21).[3] Other data is taken from Time Well Spent, which also looks at volunteer profiles. Differences in the sample and methodology should be noted (more on this in the methodology section).

Specific terms

  • Formal volunteering: giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation.
  • Informal volunteering: giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not a relative.
  • Regular volunteering: people volunteer at least once a month.

Footnotes

  1. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (2020) Community Life COVID-19 Re-contact Survey 2020.

  2. Nottingham Trent University, Sheffield Hallam University, and NCVO (2021) Respond, Recover, Reset.

  3. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (2021) Community Life Survey 2020/21.